Reading on a Rocket

Growing Fluency and Independence Design

Faith Karl



          Developing reading fluency is vital because it means that words will be recognized automatically. While it is accepted and necessary to decode words for a time, eventually all readers must become fluent. Doing so allows them to see and recognize words without spending a long time decoding them. In turn, this frees up mental faculties to focus on comprehending what is read. By third grade, children should be reading to learn rather than learning to read.

          The following lesson will help develop reading fluency by focusing on cross checking and mental marking. Crosschecking allows a reader to get to the correct words by reading the rest of the sentence to ensure they have the right word. Mental marking is how readers remember a word that is pronounced differently than it is spelled. (For example: fall would be pronounced /f/ /a/ /l/, then the reader would continue with the rest of the sentences to see that it is "fall" and then remember that the word "fall" is irregular.)

          In order to develop these skills, students will use one text for repeated readings. First, they will slowly decode the words in the text and then they will reread it several times to improve fluency. As they read, they will remember more words and be able to read them more quickly. The teacher will time them and use a formula to assess the reading rate.


·        Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (Note: get a version without cursive)

·        Short text to demonstrate/model fluency.

·        Reading rate graph (attached to lesson)

·        Partner check sheet (attached to lesson)


          "Today we will be trying to become better readers. A fluent reader is a reader who can easily read a story without having to stop to figure out words. Sometimes, reading can be tough, but the best way to learn new words is to read them over and over. So, I'm going to have you read a story a couple of times to improve your reading. While you read, I want you to try two things. If you get stuck on a word, sound it out and finish the sentence. Sometimes, that helps you figure out what the word is. Another thing that helps is to remember words that are different. If you remember that I word doesn't sound the way it is spelled, then you won't get stuck on it if you see it again. Before we start, I'm going to show you what I want you to do."


1. Introduce the lesson. Tell the student what you want them to do and why it matters. "We are going to be working on reading fluency today. Fluency is when you can read quickly and correctly. Can you think of any reason why this might be important? [Allow time for students to discuss.] "Being able to read fluently helps us to understand what we are reading so that we get the message in the text. Without a message, there is no reason to read anything."

2. Explicitly teach how to develop fluency. Write I ran to the house on the board. "I'm going to read this sentence a few times to become more fluent. As I read, I'm going to remember words so that I can read them easily next time. If I get stuck, I'm going to finish a sentence to figure out the words and then reread the sentence with the right word. Watch what I do." [Read the sentence, crosscheck misread words, read slowly, decode. "I r-r-ra- ran to the h-o-u-s, /hos/. I ran to the /hos/. Oh! House! I ran to the house. Reread, remembering some words. "I remembered more words that time so I could read it faster." Reread again, with expression to demonstrate fluency. "I remembered almost all of the words so I could read it with feeling."]

3. "Now we are going to read the book Amelia Bedelia. This story is about a maid named Amelia Bedelie. She gets a new job and is nervous about completing her chores. Let's read the book to find out how her first day at work goes." Have the student read the text. Time it and calculate the words read per minute.

 (wpm = (# of words x 60) / 3 of seconds)

4. Use the graph to show the child their rate. Move the rocket up towards the moon, stopping at the appropriate rate.

85 wpm is a typical goal for a first grader, but the goal can and should be changed for individual students depending on their abilities and needs.

5. Ask questions about the story to ensure the student is reading with a comprehension goal in mind. It is all well and good if they can read quickly, but they must also understand what they are reading. "What was wrong with how Amelia Bedelia drew the drapes? Can you think of another chore she could have done wrong? Why did Amelia Bedelia complete the chores the way she did? Do you think that Amelia Bedelia did a bad thing?"

6. Use coverups to help with words that were read incorrectly and have the student reread the sentence with the correct word.


Repeat Steps 3-6 until the goal wpm is reached.


          Have students pair up to practice fluency. Explain that while they are working in partners, they cannot make fun of one another or "help them out." Give each group four check sheets and a book to read. Each partner will read the book three times. After the second and third reading, the other partner will mark off the reader's progress on the check sheet. After that, they will trade roles and repeat the process. As the groups are working, it is the teacher's job to walk around and listen to the students read. Between readings, he/she should help with words that were misread and ask questions (much like in the lesson).

          Fluency and expression are the key points in this activity and should be modeled by the teacher previous to the commencement of the activity.


Developing Reading Fluency.

Parish, Peggy.
Amelie Bedelia. New York: Harper and Row, 1963. Print.


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